Memory Techniques: Mnemonic Devices
What is a Mnemonic?
A mnemonic device is a method for memorizing information in a way that makes it easier to remember that information. Often called mnemonics, these memory tricks are used in school for memorizing lists such as the planets in the solar system or the colors of the rainbow. However, they can be used in everyday life to help you remember information.
Mnemonics can be created in many forms. Some of the most common are acronyms, phrases, songs, or rhymes. They are often used for schoolwork, and even foreign language acquisition.
Mnemonics are often used in school to help students remember a list or a group of items. Above all else, mnemonics must be easy! They are easy usually because they are either associated with something common, or they are unusual enough to be memorable. Here are some popular examples.
The planets of the solar system are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. There are many mnemonics to memorize these in order, such as
- My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles
- Many Violet Eggs Must Jump Slowly Upon Newspapers
The colors of the rainbow are Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet. The most common mnemonic used to remember these is an acronym made from the first letter of each color: Roy G Biv.
The musical notes written on lines in the treble clef of sheet music are E, G, B, D, and F. This is sometimes learned with the sentence "Every Good Boy Does Fine." The notes written in the spaces of the treble clef are F, A, C, and E, which are often taught with the acronym "FACE."
How To Create Mnemonics
The most important thing to consider when creating mnemonic devices is that they must be easy to remember. Several studies have shown that the human memory is limited to only a few items, so grouping items into larger categories such as with a mnemonic aids us in holding more information in our short term memory. This makes it easier to move this information into long term memory.
Acronyms such as "Roy G Biv" for the colors of the rainbow are a common mnemonic device. With an acronym, it helps if it forms a word or can at least be spoken out loud instead of just a group of letters. For example, if you need to memorize a series of numbers such as an address, you may be able to make an acronym out of them. For this address
3893 Apple Street
You could use the number words "three," "eight," "nine," "three" as an acronym using the first letters, or "TENT".
Then, to remember the street name, picture an apple sitting on or in a tent. Your funny image and phrase ("Tent Apple") will help you remember the address!
If you have a group of words to memorize that don't fit well into an acronym, a song, phrase, or rhyme usually work best, as with the planets. For example, let's say you need to memorize the grocery list below:
eggs, bread, milk, ketchup, peas
Those don't fit well into an acronym, so you can come up with a phrase using the first letters of the items, like this:
Every Man Buys King Penguins
That's a silly phrase, but it's memorable! Mentally imagine a man in a checkout line with a penguin. Or, if this doesn't work for you, try a silly rhyme with the actual items from the grocery list, like this:
Egg's on the Bread box, Milk's on the table. Put Ketchup on your Peas if you're able.
There's your shopping list!
Mnemonic Generators - These Sites Will Build Mnemonics For You!
There are several mnemonic lists and dictionaries online where you can find commonly used mnemonic devices. Even if you don't use these specific mnemonics, they can provide ides for how to create your own!